Veterans’ Graves Sport Christmas Wreaths

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner
Jonathan Jose (left), Daniel Yazza and Ernestine Reeder unpack wreaths at the Fort Defiance Veterans Memorial Cemetery on Dec. 15.

Published December 26, 2016

FORT DEFIANCE  Ernestine Reeder laid a holiday wreath at the gravestone of her late husband, Army veteran Leonard Reeder, at the Veterans Cemetery in Fort Defiance last Thursday.

The Reeders were married for 42 years, and Ernestine said that she visits her husband’s gravesite twice a month to make sure “he’s not forgotten” and to tidy up the area.

“I really believe that our veterans should not be forgotten, and that is one of the things that my husband was promoting,” said Reeder. “That’s why I come back all the time. It’s touching and emotional, especially last year when we first did this.”

The wreath Ernestine had placed on Leonard’s gravesite was one of a dozen donated by Wreaths Across America, an organization that distributes wreaths to place on soldiers’ final resting places. Rob and Marty Jarvey, of the Fishers of Men for Veterans Ministry, were the couple who had found sponsors to purchase the wreaths, which the Jarveys then brought to the Navajo Nation.

Originally from Concho, Arizona the Jarveys were able to get wreaths for veterans’ cemeteries in St. Johns, Eagar and Springerville, Arizona. Rob said that Wreaths Across America had originally started in Arlington National Cemetery, but when realizing there were more than enough wreaths they expanded across the country.

“These are soldiers and we honor them,” said Rob. “There are seven ceremonial wreaths for every branch.”

Marty said the wreaths are made and taken by the truckload to Arlington National Cemetery to be blessed by each military branch chaplain and then the wreaths are escorted across the United States.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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